Home Farm Equipment Sardinian Village Tries to Save an Ancient Tree Scorched by Fire

Sardinian Village Tries to Save an Ancient Tree Scorched by Fire


To the individuals of Cuglieri, a small hilltop village on the Italian island of Sardinia, the tree was merely “the Patriarch.”

Over the course of its lengthy life — estimates of its age vary from 1,800 to 2,000 years previous — the olive tree grew to become a behemoth, with a trunk 11 toes, or 3.4 meters, huge, and an integral a part of an historical panorama in western Sardinia. However after a big space of vegetation and quite a few farms and villages within the area have been devastated by one of many greatest wildfires in a long time, time lastly caught up with the Patriarch.

The traditional olive tree was engulfed in flames, and its large trunk burned for nearly two days.

In a hearth that reached Cuglieri in late July, the agricultural neighborhood of about 2,600 residents misplaced 90 p.c of its olive bushes, the primary supply of earnings for many. Greater than 1,000 individuals have been evacuated from the city, which is tucked between a mountain lined in cork and oak bushes and the Mediterranean Sea.

Now native residents and the authorities are pinning their hopes for the survival of their historical olive tree on Gianluigi Bacchetta, a professor on the College of Cagliari and the director of its botanical gardens, who’s attempting to convey the Patriarch again to life.

“The Patriarch is our identity,” stated Maria Franca Curcu, who’s liable for cultural and social insurance policies for the municipality of Cuglieri, her voice breaking. “If we can save him, we can give a message of hope to all the people who have lost everything in the fire.”

When Professor Bacchetta first visited the traditional olive tree in July, soil temperatures had reached 176 levels Fahrenheit, or 80 levels Celsius, due to the hearth.

“We needed to create an intensive care unit for the tree,” he stated in a phone interview. “It really is a living being that underwent serious trauma,” Professor Bacchetta stated. “We are going to do our best and hope that it wakes up from its coma.”

The professor and his crew first watered the soil to cool it down after which protected the trunk with jute tarps and the soil with straw. A close-by village gave a water tank for the tree, and a neighborhood plumber constructed an irrigation system that permits the soil to retain essential humidity.

An area building firm donated gear and labored without spending a dime to construct a construction to shade the trunk from the scorching solar, replicating the function of leaves — now gone. Each 10 days, the tree is irrigated with natural fertilizers within the hope of encouraging the tree’s peripheral roots to develop.

“If the peripheral roots restart and manage to transfer materials to the stump,” Professor Bacchetta stated, “we can hope for shoots to come out in September or October.”

The professor didn’t cease with the Patriarch. He visited the entire centuries-old olive groves within the space, advising farmers on how to save fire-damaged vegetation. His crew and native authorities are planning a crowdfunding effort to purchase gear to restore the olive groves and their fields.

Giorgio Zampa, the proprietor of an olive farm that when belonged to his great-grandfather, misplaced all of his 500 oldest olive bushes, planted over 350 years in the past.

“Mr. Bacchetta unfortunately can’t do much for me,” Mr. Zampa stated, “but I believe that the work on the Patriarch will psychologically help the entire community.”

Ten of his 14 Sardinian donkeys and virtually all of his cattle from an historical, endangered breed additionally died within the wildfire as they sought shelter in a close-by forest, which started burning shortly after. Mr. Zampa stated he would focus his enterprise on the remaining youthful olive bushes and begin planting new ones.

“The village’s economy got burned to a cinder like the olive groves,” he stated. “The fire damaged the landscape, the economy and our incomes in an incalculable way, like nothing we had seen before.”

Wildfires will not be new to the Cuglieri space. They’re a comparatively frequent summer time phenomenon on the arid island of Sardinia, however typically will not be as apocalyptic as this season’s. The terribly excessive flames, propelled by sturdy winds from the south, reached the village’s properties and burned to ashes the whole lot standing in between, together with the cemetery’s ossuary.

Within the final huge hearth, in 1994, the Patriarch was spared, although the flames burned some century-old bushes close by.

“In Cuglieri, we have always felt that there is something sacred about it, and that protected it from the fire,” stated Piera Perria, a retired native anthropologist who first contacted Professor Bacchetta to assess the Patriarch. “None of us could imagine that it could not make it this time.”

Giuseppe Mariano Delogu, a retired high-ranking official with Sardinia’s forestry corps, stated that previously 40 years, wildfires adopted the identical roads on the hill and the mountain close to Cuglieri, however the flames by no means reached the olive groves.

Though civil safety and the response to fires within the space have improved through the years, bureaucratic hurdles aimed toward defending Mediterranean scrubland imply that inflammable vegetation is commonly not cleared, creating hearth hazards, consultants say. Excessive temperatures this summer time, partly due to sizzling winds blowing in from Africa, have intensified the dangers of wildfires breaking out.

“The only way to extinguish such fires is to prevent them,” Mr. Delogu stated. “Technology simply fails when the fire is so strong and so vast, regardless of how many firefighters you have, they will always struggle.”

Mr. Delogu was nonetheless looking forward to the Patriarch, although.

“They are incredible trees,” he stated. “I am optimistic.”


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